Our body, when in optimum health, functions without us having to concern ourselves too much with what's taking place. There is so much going on inside our bodies and our hormones play a massive role in the smooth regulation of these internal affairs!
Hormones are a part of the endocrine system and they are responsible for controlling most of our major body functions; from temperature regulation to our sleep cycle, from hunger to heart rate, there really is so much relying on our hormones. It's not hard to see why it is extremely important to keep our hormones in check.
What Symptoms May Indicate a Hormone Imbalance?
There are many symptoms that can be attributed to a hormone imbalance, some of which are not exclusive to a hormone issue however.
- Weight gain or loss
- Inexplicible fatigue
- Excess hair growth
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Memory fog
- Loss of libido
How can we Keep our Hormones Balanced?
We all know that what we put into our body impacts our health. This definitely rings true for hormone balance. We are often told that fat is bad for us but it is important to remember that fat is actually a very necessary component of our diet. To produce certain hormones we need to have fatty acids and cholesterol; they are the building blocks for our hormones. Fats are also used for hormone stablisation and the rebuilding of cells. If we don't have these nutrients to make the hormones we need it can result in hormone imbalance.
So what should we be doing to help our hormone production?
Get some good fat into your body!
Avocados are a super fat source so add some avocado to your lunch; they are rich in monounsaturated fats which help our body absorb and use nutrients. There's so much good stuff in them.... fibre, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin E, and B-vitamins, all great for maintaining a balanced hormone system. If you are looking for some avocado inspired recipes take a look at our facebook page, recently we've shared a recipe for an asparagus and avocado salad and a guacamole recipe.
Coconut oil is a great source of lauric acid- one of the healthier saturated fats which is easily absorbed into the body. It is beneficial for hormone production, improves the digestive process and has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. There's so many reasons we should include it in our diet!
Keeping our intake of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids balanced is important when thinking about hormone balance. Most people have a high amount of omega 6 in their diet whereas for optimum health a ratio of 1:1 would be ideal. Wild caught salmon, mackerel and fish roe are good sources of omega 3. For vegetarians flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and walnut oils and spinach also contain high levels of omega 3.
Cutting back on omega 6 will help you to get closer to that ideal 1:1 ratio. This can be done by avoiding cooking with seed oils and eating more home-cooked food, as restaurant and takeaway food are often cooked with canola and soy oils.
Adaptogen herbs is the name given to a group of healing plants that, as the name would suggest, help our bodies to adapt to an influence or something that is stressing it. One of the most notable benefits of adaptogen herbs is their ability to boost the adrenaline system, helping us to respond to stress.
In Ayurvedic medicine ashwagandha is regarded as a popular, powerful herb. It is often used to help with thyroid, adrenal and brain function. A study into this herb established that it not only stimulates the thyroid but improves the function of an overactive thyroid as well. It works in a similar balancing fashion with our adrenaline system too. In regard to brain function it helps prevent degeneration by scavenging for free radicals, as seen in this study.
Rhodiola rosea has a high concentration of organic compounds, such as phenols, alkaloids, flavonoids, and quinones, and for this reason they have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.
One if the most common uses of this adaptogen is to aide our stress system as it influences our cortisol production in times of stress. Cortisol is produced to help us cope when we are under duress but it also plays a major role how your body breaks down carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. On going stress leads to us having too much cortisol and this can impact our hormone balance and in turn our digestion, our sleep pattern, and our fertility.
Siberian ginseng, or eleuthero as it is otherwise known, acts primarily on the adrenal glands. The active ingredients in Siberian ginseng, eleutherosides, stimulate and improve the efficiency of the adrenal glands and bring them into a balanced state.
Many great claims have been made about eleuthero- it's said to boost the immune system, lower the risk of cancer, help liver to detoxify toxins, improve memory and our ability to learn.
A few weeks ago on our blog we talked about essential oils and their many uses. Essential oils can be used to aide our bodies to balance internal issues so we can function as we are supposed to. In this way they can be used to help with balancing our hormones.
There are so many essential oils but here's a few that are helpful when considering hormone balance....
The Myrtle plant has long been praised for its medicinal properties. Studies on the effects of myrtle essential oil have shown that it is beneficial to the endocrine system. It assists with the regulation of the thyroid, and with hormones related to women's reproductive wellness.
All the way back in Ancient Egypt times clary sage was used to aide hormone issues. With clary sage it's the phytoestrogens it contains that helps to regulate estrogen levels. Phytoestrogens are compounds found in plants with similar properties to estrogen. They attach themselves to the same sites as estrogen and are helpful in both situations of too much or too little estrogen. For these reasons clary sage is often used in cases of infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, PMS and to reduce the chances of uterine and ovarian cancer.
Frankincense is hailed as a major anti-inflammatory, it is also great for balancing hormones. It is often used to help with autoimmune conditions and thyroid imbalance. People also commonly use it to help lower cortisol levels in case of high stress.
It is important to remember that essential oils can be powerful so do some thorough research or ask a professional before using them........ If you missed our blog post on essential oils and want to check it out click here.
Last but most certainly not least... Stress Reduction
The impact that stress has on our body is astounding! I've already touched upon this a few times in this post because stress really is majorily disruptive to our hormone balance. When cortisol, the main stress hormone, is running high it knocks our other hormones out of sync. Cortisol increases glucose in the blood stream, in the short term this can be beneficial, such as when we are doing something where we'll require more energy. In the longer term this becomes problematic as blood sugar level remain elevated, leaving the body inflamed. Stress can interfere with learning and memory, cause weigh gain, lower our immune response, increase our blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of heart disease
We end up feeling stressed for many reasons- not sleeping enough, working too much, thinking too much, not eating well... I mentioned earlier some adaptogens and essential oils that will aide our stress response but it is also a good idea to get to the root of your stress and make an effort to reduce it. Having some device free time before sleeping is definitely helpful, as well as getting enough sleep. I find that yoga and bike riding are great ways to relax and also get in some exercise.
There are many tools we can use help our bodies to function in a more balanced fashion. However, if you have serious concerns with the functioning of your endocrine system please consult with your endocrinologist.